When you’re pregnant, physicians spend a lot of time talking to you about the first, second and third trimesters. Too often, though, the fourth trimester or postpartum period is not discussed enough. But it should be. It can be one of the hardest times for new moms, both emotionally and physically.
No matter what your pregnancy and delivery were like, you went through a lot. You need time to recover and heal. You need time to figure out how this whole parenting thing works. You have to give yourself some postpartum priorities. Here are four I’d recommend.
1. Take care of yourself.
Taking care of a newborn is a 24/7 job. It’s so demanding (but still wonderful!) that you may start neglecting your needs and giving all your time and attention to this perfect little baby, who depends on you for everything. I know personally how hard it can be to put yourself first during those first few weeks and months after giving birth. But, I also know you can’t be the best mom and partner if you don’t take care of yourself first.
Here are some ways to take care of yourself after giving birth:
- Let your body heal. Letting yourself rest and snuggling with your newborn is more important than a sink full of dirty dishes.
- Don’t overdo it. Mind your physician-given restrictions.
- Drink plenty of water, especially if you’re breastfeeding, and eat as healthy as you can as often as you can.
- Keep taking your prenatal vitamins or a multivitamin with iron.
- Go to your postpartum checkup. If you have any concerns or questions, ask your physician. If one checkup at 6 weeks postpartum isn’t enough, schedule another one.
- Pay attention to your physical and mental health. You’ll be told how to help your body heal, but remember that your mental health is just as important. If you’re experiencing postpartum depression, try yoga or using a baby carrier. Both yoga exercises and babywearing may help alleviate postpartum depression.
2. Be patient with yourself.
Whether this is your first baby or your fifth, this experience is new for you. Your postpartum recovery may take 6 weeks or it may take several months. Breastfeeding may come naturally, or you may have a lot of breastfeeding concerns and struggles. No matter what happens, be patient and give yourself grace as you learn to navigate this new journey with your little one.
It can be easy to be self-critical and compare yourself to other moms you see online or in your neighborhood, but try not to. Everything in parenting requires patience and practice. Comparison is the thief of joy, and you can and should feel so much joy as a parent. And spoiler alert: you won’t be the perfect parent. But guess what? You don’t need to be. You just have to try to be the best parent you can be. You were made to be your baby’s mom, and they will love you no matter what.
3. Keep your baby’s daily care and routine simple.
As much as we all love the smell of a baby fresh out of the bath, your newborn doesn’t need a bath every day. You can use gentle baby wipes to wipe their face, neck and hands-off as needed instead of giving them a bath each time they spit up.
If you are a creature of habit, you may want to get your baby into a routine as soon as you get home from the hospital. There are many health benefits of having a routine, for you and your baby. Unfortunately, newborns aren’t exactly the routine type. You’ll be feeding on demand, and your newborn will be sleeping most of the day. You can, however, start laying the foundation for good sleep habits by introducing a short bedtime routine around 4 weeks old. Something as simple as changing your baby’s diaper, putting on pajamas and wrapping them in a swaddle is a great place to start.
4. Lean on your village.
Becoming a mom isn’t sunshine and rainbows all the time. There will be hard days. There will be moments when you feel sad, tired and probably overwhelmed. It’s OK if you experience any of these feelings. It’s also OK to admit that being a mom is harder than you thought it would be – because it is hard. But the good news is you don’t have to do it all alone.
The first thing you can do is be open and honest with your partner about how you’re feeling. Let them help with the baby, cooking and cleaning. You can also ask your family and friends to babysit or help with the household responsibilities. If you don’t have any moms nearby to talk to, join a local support group or look for one online. If you can’t find one, ask your provider for help finding one.
When you take care of yourself and try to simplify your life after giving birth, it can help you feel better and it can help you become a more confident and competent mother.